Thousands of African Migrants Give up European Hopes — Accept Voluntary Repatriation Flights

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As many as 10,000 migrants from Africa and other nations have taken the option to turn back from Europe and return to their homelands. Some are even working to persuade their fellow countrymen not to make the trip at all, as they perceive the risk and hardship involved in smuggling themselves into Europe outweighing the benefits.

The voluntary repatriation flights are being organised out of Libya by the United Nations agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) which has sent nearly 10,000 migrants home in 2017, a figure that is expected to rise to 12,000 before the year is out. The numbers involved are a significant rise on 2016, when just 2,000 took up the offer, reports The Times.

But the figure is a tiny minority compared to the estimated million illegal migrants waiting in Libya now, and the millions more who have succeeded in reaching Europe via routes through the Aegean and Balkans, from Libya through Italy, and from Morocco to Spain during the course of the migrant crisis.

Despite the great number which has succeeded in smuggling themselves into Europe, many of those stuck in Libya have already been subjected to violence, rape, and abuse the hands of people smugglers on their way to the country. Once there, they face being kidnapped by militias to be beaten and tortured before being ransomed back to their relatives.

Even if they manage to escape the country, they still face the journey across the Mediterranean, which has seen over 15,000 drown since the start of the migrant crisis. Many also suffer from a mismatch of expectations of how easy it will be to get to Europe, and how welcoming that continent will be, thanks to the lies told by people-traffickers who made huge amounts of money out of economic migrants, and the reality of the beatings, and threat of death.

Rather than facing further hardship on the road to Europe, many now choose to return home, taking advantage of the flights to 29 countries offered by the IOM, with some even being given grants to help them get into business upon their return.

Two such returned migrants who decided to return home were featured in a report by the BBC, which quoted the remarks of 42-year-old Senegalese man Hassan Odjo, who said: “I was praying every day to Allah to give me the chance to come home.

“I saw people dying in front of my eyes. Every day I was praying to be back in my country. Today is the happiest day for me, it’s like it’s my birthday.”

Describing the way economic migrants are treated by the many militias operating in Libya, Hassan said: “When they catch you they lock you in prison, beat you or maltreat you, ask you to call your parents to send money… They are selling black people like coffee, like a cup of coffee. Yes I’m telling you the truth!”

Some of the returnees are so grateful to have made it back to their homes alive, they warn others against making the journey to Europe, visiting schools and employers to counter the positive views of migration shared on social media.

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